Position Statement : Why Do Vermont School Districts Need Library Materials Selection Policies?

  • Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors…

“Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books, but they, too, have suffered from the lack of availability of books about others. They need books as windows onto reality, not just on imaginary worlds. They need books that will help them understand the multicultural nature of the world they live in and their place as a member of just one group, and their connections to all other humans.” -Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, 1990

  • State of Vermont Agency of Education: Educational Equity

Educational equity means that every student has “access to the educational resources and rigor they need at the right moment in their education across race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, family background and/or family income.” Educational Equity is the degree of achievement, fairness and opportunity in education as measured by a standard of success. The Agency of Education (AOE), along with educators across Vermont, is determined to eliminate the inequity that persists between Vermont’s affluent white students, and student groups that have historically demonstrated achievement gaps within our state’s school systems, including students who are on Individual Education Plans, English learners (ELs), students eligible for free and reduced cost lunch, migrant children, children experiencing homelessness, children in the foster care system, and students of color. Ensuring more equitable schools is an important area of focus within Vermont’s 2019 State Plan.


What is a library selection policy?

Every library — academic, public, and school (public, private, charter, independent, and international) — should have a comprehensive written policy that guides the selection, deselection or weeding, and reconsideration of library resources. The most valuable selection policy is current; it is reviewed and revised on a regular basis; and it is familiar to all members of a library’s staff. The policy should be approved by the library’s governing board or other policy-making body and disseminated widely for understanding by all stakeholders. http://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/selectionpolicytoolkit/why

Why are school board adopted library selection policies necessary for legal protection for school districts, administrators, educators, and learners?

  • Selection policies support the educational mission for a school district, and include important commitments to intellectual freedom for diverse learners: 

    • Access to Resources and Services in the School Library: The school library plays a unique role in promoting intellectual freedom. It serves as a point of voluntary access to information and ideas and as a learning laboratory for students as they acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed in a pluralistic society. Although the educational level and program of the school necessarily shapes the resources and services of a school library, the principles of the Library Bill of Rights apply equally to all libraries, including school libraries.* 

    • Diverse Collections: Collection development should reflect the philosophy inherent in Article I of the Library Bill of Rights: “Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.” A diverse collection should contain content by and about a wide array of people and cultures to authentically reflect a variety of ideas, information, stories, and experiences.*

    • Education and Information Literacy: Libraries and library workers foster education and lifelong learning by promoting free expression and facilitating the exchange of ideas among users. Libraries use resources, programming, and services to strengthen access to information and thus build a foundation of intellectual freedom. In their roles as educators, library workers create an environment that nurtures intellectual freedom in all library resources and services.*

    • Equity, Diversity, Inclusion: Libraries are essential to democracy and self-government, to personal development and social progress, and to every individual’s inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To that end, libraries and library workers should embrace equity, diversity, and inclusion in everything that they do.*

  • Selection policies provide protection from censorship attempts from citizens or outside groups who want to impose their individual values on the educational community.  

  • District selection policies provide professional guidelines for selection of appropriate resources for school libraries, and determine the responsibility for selection, and removal of materials for a school library. 

    • Evaluating Library Collections: Libraries continually develop their collections by adding and removing resources to maintain collections of current interest and usefulness to their communities. Libraries should adopt collection development and maintenance policies that include criteria for evaluating materials.*

*Selections from ALA Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations

Prepared by Judith Kaplan, VSLA Advocacy Committee Member 2020

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